Sunday, September 11, 2011

the thing is

I've been a lot better. But these days, facing my first trip to Israel where I won't see my sister at the other end, I'm worse again.

I know today I'm not the only one grieving.

I went back to read Emma's post from January, when we knew what lay ahead. I thought you might want to read it again too.

The Thing Is

to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, How can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.

- Ellen Bass

Friday, July 8, 2011

grief: three months

The hardest part is remembering what she looked like, that week when she was barely alive. The hardest part is remembering what she used to look like before that. The hardest part is when I can't remember something from before that, when I say something was A's favorite and someone else says no, that wasn't A, that was you, and we'll never be able to ask her and it's just gone. The hardest part is when something was gone years ago but resurfaces in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of playing with my kids, and I'm in tears with no control over them. The hardest part is walking around feeling raw in a way no one can see, like I have no skin. The hardest part is the edge of sadness that underlies everything. Everything.

I have a husband I love and adorable kids and I want to be happy, for them. I can't picture when I ever will.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BET: "was that when we were a baby?"

(The Year In Quotes.)

BET: I want what I want. Those are the rules of me.

PPHONE: So, do you think your stuffed animals had a good time in Vermont?
ALEPH: Well, Elmo likes to see new places. Brown Bear & Winnie the Pooh, I don't know.

ALEPH: Welcome to my ice cream store. What flavor would you like?
PPHONE: Cookies & cream, please.
ALEPH: Oh sorry Eema, that has sulfa* in it.
[*In case not obvious, Persephone is allergic to sulfa.]
PPHONE: Oh. Well, what flavor do you have that's safe for me to eat?
ALEPH: [smiling ruefully] Actually, I just realized...all our flavors have sulfa in them.

BET: I'm angry with you.
ALEPH: I'm angry with you.
BET: I'm angrier.
ALEPH: I'm angrier.
BET: I'm angriest.
ALEPH: I'm angriest.
BET: I'm angriest OF ALL.

PPHONE: These are really hard questions, Aleph. I don't know.
ALEPH: [sigh] All right, if you just answer *one* hard one, I will ask you easier questions.

[after battling Bet into bed]
PPHONE: Do you have a last thing to say before quiet time?
BET: I'm going to say...that you're not my mommy anymore.
PPHONE: Is that your last thing?
BET: That's *part* of my last thing. The next part is a knock knock joke.

BET: Abba, can you pretend you're a bad guy?
LANCE [reading newspaper]: No.
BET: How about a bad guy who just reads the paper?

FEEDING THERAPIST: Good for you for trying cottage cheese, Bet. That's not my favorite either.
BET: Then you should have some too!
BET: Sure! Everybody should try new things.
FEEDING THERAPIST: Heh. You're right. Okay. [warily takes a bite]
BET: [perky] How is it?

BET: Eema, can Hashem fly?
PPHONE: Well, I guess He could, but He doesn't need to. He's already everywhere.
BET: Because he's so big?
PPHONE: ...Right.
ALEPH: You mean He's wide.
BET: You mean He's fat.

BET: When a candle burns out, it's not alive anymore, right?
PPHONE: Well, uh, it was never alive.
BET: But Gd can still see it, right?

[subway-loving kid at the supermarket]
ALEPH: Can we go to the express line, Eema? Wait, I think we have too many things for express. We better get on the local.

[Superman II: A Summary, by Aleph.]
When he gives up his powers, he can be hurt by normal things, but not kryptonite. When he gets his powers back, he can be hurt by *kryptonite*, but *not* normal things.

BET: [bops Lance in face with balloon]
BET: sorry.
BET: uh oh.

ALEPH: [with yogurt drip on shirt] Eema, can you take this shirt off me? I need to go to the bathroom.
PPHONE: Okay, but...why do you need to take it off for that?
ALEPH: beCAUSE. [flaps hands wildly] It's too YOGURTY.

PPHONE: [nixes 2nd video]
PPHONE: [nixes 3rd tuna melt]
PPHONE: [nixes chocolate milk 2 hrs early]
BET: [sadly] Eema. You're giving me a very hard time today.

ALEPH: Abba, if Superman saw a kind of candy that he'd never seen before, he would have to make sure there's no kryptonite in it. He'd have to say, "Is this kryptonite-free?"

BET [at bedtime]: "Shazaam…oh." [tries again] "Shema…"

BET: I'm all out of cute!
PPHONE: [Oh I think not.]

PPHONE: Aleph, what are you DOING to your hair?
ALEPH: Putting cheese in it! [is this a trick question?]

BET: Eema, you're so cozy. Can I sleep inside your shirt?

ALEPH: [thoughtfully] The water doesn't taste *so* bad with spit.

[boys march into kitchen]
PPHONE: Yes. Yes I did.
[march back out]

ALEPH: There's a lady pirate!
PPHONE: What are you gonna do?
ALEPH: I will point her with a pointy stick!
PPHONE: [isn't this a Monty Python routine?]
ALEPH: And then drown her at the bottom of the water! And break her feet!!
PPHONE: Uh, I don't think you need to do both.
ALEPH: Please can I?

BET: Abba, why do you have hair on your...uh, everywhere?

ALEPH: Actually, I just thought of something kind of crazy!

BET: [building a house] I need 4 more squares.
ALEPH: Allllllll riiiiiight lemme see what I can do.

PPHONE: [to naked son] Bet, can I bring you some underpants?
BET: [magnanimously] Sure! If you want!

BET: Eema, maybe you could sleep with me the whole night for my *birthday*.
PPHONE: I don't think so.
BET: But MAYBE, right?

VISITING NIECE: Does Bet have something against pants?

ALEPH: But WHY aren't fairies real?
PPHONE: I don't know.
ALEPH: I think there should be some kind of way to invent one. How do you invent a fairy?
PPHONE: I don't know.
ALEPH: But how do you THINK?

ALEPH: Eema, why is my room arranged like this?

[sigh. good morning, young Stephen King.]
BET: [trailing fingers on my face] Spiders are crawling on you! Trying to get in your mouth!

BET: We're playing superfriends and I was wondering if you would like to be Wonder Woman. Because…you're a woman.

BET: [wearing cape, obviously] Superman needs you to clean his hands. Because he ate a LOT of macaroni and cheese.

ALEPH: I wonder what's going on in the Bronx right now.

BET: Eema, we don't have to cooperate with you all the time. Know why? Cause Abba said it's okay to make mistakes.

ALEPH: Eema, I guess you were right.
PPHONE: About what?
ALEPH: [sigh.] I don't know.

ALEPH: Eema, what do you think is going on in France right now?

BET: I just need a hug. A hug that never ends.
PPHONE: [hugs]
BET: Actually one that does end. But…not yet.

ALEPH: [on his first comic book] So it's

ALEPH [to hosts]: If you don't want us to look in all your rooms, why did you invite us over?

PPHONE: [looking for specific Lego piece]
ALEPH: [pointing to random pile of Lego] My mind tells me it's in there.

EEMA: Don't touch that.
BET: I'm not touching, I'm just looking with my fingers.

ALEPH: So uh, Supper Lady? This is kind of good.

BET: I'm gonna cut that bad guy's head off! [aside] Do you have a scissor?

BET: [out of bed after bedtime after a very, very long day]
PPHONE & LANCE: [glaring]
BET: I just have a little problem.
PPHONE & LANCE: [still glaring] What's the problem?
BET: I...miss you guys.


PPHONE: Bet, go to the bathroom.
BET: [teenage sigh] I'm TIRED of that! Why do I have to do that all the TIME!

PPHONE: Bet, did you hear me? Why aren't you going the other way around the sofa?
BET: BeCAUSE! There's a lot of pee over there!

BET: I have a yellow beak, I waddle when I walk, and I'm covered with white fur. I must be a....?
BET: I was thinking of pigs.
ALEPH: But pigs don't waddle when they walk.
PPHONE: And they don't have yellow beaks.
BET: I know, but I was *thinking* of them.

BET: [singing] when criminals in this world appear to break the laws that they should fear the call goes out both far and near for UNNNDERPANTS

BET: I wish I was half me and half Aleph.
BET: I don't want to be me *forever*.

ALEPH: Is there such a thing as a Hebrew muffin?

BET: Can I tell you about the time I was a shepherd?

ALEPH: Eema, it's really not comfortable the way you're holding me! But it's probably not you. It's me.
ALEPH: I mean it's my shirt.

overheard from kids' room:
[BANG] Flash hits a window! It doesn't break! [BANG] Flash hits it again!

BET: You know what superhero you are? HotGirl.
PPHONE: WHAT!? [tries to stop laughing] What's HotGirl's superpower?
BET: She makes things hot.

PPHONE: Bet, what did you get to do as Shabbos Abba?
BET: I was *really* nice to the Shabbos Eema.

ALEPH: So, is Green Eggs and Ham the The Cat in the Hat?

BET: [about to climb onto my lap]
PPHONE: Are your pants dry?
BET: Yes!
PPHONE: Then you can sit on my lap.
BET: [climbs up] They're *mostly* dry!

BET: More kisses. More. More. More more more more more more more more more more okay one more. And now last one. Okay.

BET: Eema, does a time machine have batteries?
EEMA: Uh…no, it probably has a flux capacitor.
BET: *That's* the problem, Aleph. It needs a flux capacitor.

BET: Where does it hurt?
EEMA: All across here. [indicates forehead]
BET: [deep breath] Okay. I'll start from the corner. [begins kissing]

BET: [putting what looks like...elephant tusks? on his lego car]
PPHONE: What are those?
BET: Horns! Beep beep!

ALEPH: Abba, if you *love* Bet, you should really let him do what he wants.

ALEPH: Eema?
ALEPH: What can you do for me?

[listening to TMBG's Here Comes Science]
BET: I'm elephant man! I'm made of elements!
BET: Wanna feel my elements?
PPHONE: [trying to stop laughing] Elements are too small to feel.
BET: But mine are really *big*.

BET: [screaming] Aleph! Aleph! Aaaalleeeeeeph!
ALEPH: I'll be with you in a moment.

BET: If you're not going to eat your mac & cheese, should I?
ALEPH: That's up to you. I don't care *what* you do. [pause] Unless it's mean.

BET: Eema, let's have a hug.
PPHONE: [hugs]
BET: Let's go to the bed and have hugs. Come on, Eema. Let's lie down and hug.

BET: I'm afraid of something.
BET: My skeleton is so strong. What if it punches its way out of my body?

PPHONE: Can I have a hug?
ALEPH [scornful]: No!
ALEPH: ...[grin] because YES!

Bet's class has an every-snowflake-is-unique bulletin board.
Bet's quote says: "I'm special because I don't eat too much."

ALEPH: Eema, there's bear prints in the hallway!
PPHONE: Bear prints? How did a bear get in the hallway?
ALEPH: Well, they might have been giant chicken prints. It was dark. I couldn't tell.

BET: [runs out]
ALEPH: [runs out after him, points dramatically] to the EXPERIMENTS!
BET: [runs back in]

ALEPH: I might have a little bit of a pretend fever.

overheard [reading 10 Minutes Til Bedtime to each other]:
-So many hamsters!
-Eema would be really upset.
-Yeah, Eema would be really upset.

BET: Sleep is too boring.
EEMA: It's good to be bored sometimes. That's called 'downtime.'
ALEPH: [outraged disbelief] Good?! To be bored?!?

[arranged Bet's strawberry slices to look like a flower.]
ALEPH: Can you make mine look like a gun?
ALEPH: Or like a daled! A daled is the shape of a gun.

BET: Wanna see my trick?
[puts laden spoon into mouth; takes out empty spoon]
BET: No. It's *science*.

BET [to grandparents, with big smile, clearly expecting praise]: I don't *want* to kiss you good night, but I'm going to anyway!

BET: Eema, we gotta figure this out or I'll whine. And I *know* you don't want me to *whine*.

ALEPH: [leaps into kitchen, brandishing swords at me] I'll take care of the woman!
BET: [whispers] Make sure she doesn't see you!

ALEPH: It's just, like [SOB] really *upsetting* for me [SOB] when you don't do what I *want*

BET: Stop! You're bothering me!
ALEPH: You never let me do anything I want!
BET: Everything you want to do *bothers me*!

BET [to Aleph]: Can I tell you something? I'm your sidekick.

BET: Let's play Pesach again! But this time the Egyptians are the good guys and the Jews are the bad guys.

BET: I'm hungry.
PPHONE: There's some grapes left from yesterday, do you want some?
BET: [decidedly] No, I don't eat grapes from yesterday.

ALEPH: Your body's waterproof, right? Water can't get through your body. *Nothing* can get through your body. Wellllllll, maybe a pickax.

ALEPH: [singing to self] life is my favorite, life is my favorite
ZAIDY: [enters] You're eating grapefruit! That's one of my favorite things.
ALEPH: I bet not as much as being *alive*! Okay, choose which one is your favorite: having a lot of grapefruits in the house, or STAYING ALIVE.

BET: You never let me watch videos as much as I want!
[note: he watched 3+ hrs today.]
PPHONE: Bet, I told you. no more talking about videos.
BET: I'm not talking about *videos*. I'm talking about how I *feel* about them.

ALEPH: Come on Bet, let's pillow fight the window! *THWACK*

PPHONE: Look, I made my batcycle some wings.
ALEPH: That was clever of you, Eema.

BET: [nauseous] You know what I feel like? You know what I *feel* like?
PPHONE: [looks wildly for bucket] What? What???
BET: I feel like watching a VIDEO.

LANCE: [leaves message and hangs up phone]
ALEPH: Wait, wait! [hopefully] Can we press 1 for more options?

ALEPH [to our guest]: Rochel…you're not boring.

ALEPH: I'll stop if you stop SCREAMING IN MY EAR!
BET: Okay.


5 years old. Still funny. Bring it on, Year 6.

Friday, April 29, 2011

in honor of our new BJURSTA

...i bring you this blast from the past Barren Season:

Sunday, January 30, 2005
[on the way home from Ikea, Saturday night]

persephone: Are you sure you want to put that together tonight? With the kids having so much trouble sleeping?

brother in law: Oh please, there's no noise in this assembly. This is Ikea we're talking about.

persephone: It's gonna make noise when you have to throw things at the wall because nothing fits, won't it?

sister*: [giggling]

persephone: Hey, that must be why they give everything those names! In case you don't want to curse, you can just yell the name of the product instead. YOU STUPID FLUMVARK!!!

sister*: [laughing so hard she can't talk]

*yes, this was my little sister. you can tell by the laughing.

Monday, April 18, 2011

out of your bones we'll pick seven / and build a wind chime that sings to heaven

Today was the last day. From now on I can wear new clothes, listen to music. From now on I won't fit into a box even strangers understand: I'm in shloshim for my sister. From now on I...God, I don't want there to BE a 'from now on'. I'm not ready. I'm not ready to get up and start walking.

A, I've only begun to understand what it will be like to live in your absence. It's still the silly things that make me want to call you up, not the profound ones. Guess what - they're remaking Thundercats. You're never going to believe this, but I'm on youtube. And another thing about these glasses with tiny lenses you made me get: the last time I pushed them up, I poked myself in the eye! I hear your laugh in my head, the one that starts out like a grownup and winds up like Ernie. I can't believe you're not just out of sight, around a corner. I can't believe I won't hear or see you again.

It's been a privilege to talk about you this month, to say the things you'd never let me say to your face. How much I learned from you. How awed I am by the things you managed to do. How much light you brought into a room every time you entered it; how much joy you brought into our family, ever since you were born.

I can see, with the opened eyes of the bereaved, that you were something of an angel. But I'd trade that awfully-won knowledge anytime. I just want my human little sister back.

There is no ending to this. Only hard beginnings, over and over and over.

Monday, April 11, 2011

big sister

It's clichéd, I know, but I can't get over how much technology has changed the character of one of the oldest experiences in the world: grieving.

Let's leave aside the fact that every one of the friends mentioned here is a friend I made online. My family was so surprised to find that my bewilderingly virtual relationships translate into real - and really nice! - people. But that's not unique to this situation; blogfriends have been my salvation since my infertile years, or even before.

Photos shared online, videochats, spreading the word by email or facebook instead of phone tree: again, I think we're familiar with the benefits of these, without needing to tie them to loss or mourning.

But here's a new one: I never would have dreamed our eulogies for my sister would be online...or that I'd be more glad than embarrassed. It wasn't planned in advance, I don't think, but it made perfect sense: by the time our family in America emerged from Shabbat, we had already buried my sister. I can't imagine the unreality and disbelief of hearing that. They wanted - needed - a way to experience the funeral in realtime, as much as we did.

Much later, I discovered another. Because of the awful difference in time zones, my sister and I didn't try to talk on the phone much. (Yes, okay, I hate the phone even in this country, but phone phobia AND time zones? Dude, I give up.) We IMed instead; often when I was supposed to be sleeping or she was, trying not to wake our spouses with the glare of the screen or the clicking of keys. And because of that, I have records of conversations going back...years. Not even anything as coherent as you'd put in a letter, just chats, in the true sense of the word: random, rambly, hilarious. Things we might have said while hanging out on the couch at 1 AM, and never remembered in the morning.

It's not enough. It doesn't replace being able to actually hang out on her couch. It didn't make her any less far away. I'm still struggling with the fact that we lived on two different continents, with a wide, wide ocean in between.

But I think of how different it all would have been, before we discovered we could live online, too. I can't imagine.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

She's gone.

No more words.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

i can't do this anymore

I'm flying to Israel to be with my little sister, for however long we have left.

I have not written about this since her cancer spread, out of respect for her family's privacy. And I don't plan to get into detail now.

But I'm struggling with the idea that this should be private, now. I don't want the world to go about its business, unaware that this grievous wrong is taking place. This is so wrong. This is so unfair. This is a loss for the entire world, whether you know it or not.

I want you all to stop and take notice. I want you to grieve too.

I am so angry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

what we have here is a failure to empathize

Oh hey, you want to talk can't-vs.-won't and asshole parenting?

Dressing oneself has been a long-standing challenge for both my kids, but especially for Aleph. I think independence scares him in general; he's afraid that if he can do it by himself, I'll decide he doesn't need me anymore and abandon him, blah blah insecure attachment mother guilt blah blah blah.

In any case, Bet recently - FINALLY! - started putting on his own shirt and Aleph is jealous of the fuss we made over it, but unwilling to do what it takes to earn his own fuss, namely put on his own shirt too.

Today he says, amid sobs, that putting his head through the shirt is too scary.

Ok, that's pretty specific. I can work with specific. Maybe he's afraid he'll get stuck? He has a gigantic head; it does happen once in a while. I tell him this shirt has an extra big neck, that's why I thought it would be good to practice on.

"That's not why it's scary, Eema," he chokes out. "It's too dark in there."

It's too dark.

Inside the shirt.

And this is where I thank my stars he's too young to know 'Eema's voice is shaking a little' = 'Eema is trying SO.HARD.NOT TO LAUGH IN YOUR FACE.'

I made him do it anyway, giving him a hug between each step. Can they tell when it's sarcastic hugging? I have a lot of practice with that by now; maybe I'm getting away with it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

urban twin hack: CARABINERS.

I keep forgetting to write this down, and maybe it's not a stroke of genius, but it sure has saved my shoulders this year: always keep an extra carabiner in your bag. Weighs next to nothing, takes up hardly any space. Better yet, keep it clipped onto one of the kids' backpacks.

That way, when you're walking from school to...anywhere else, and your kids start whining that their backpacks are soooooo heavy and they're soooooo tired and they can't carry them ONE more step, you won't be struggling to keep two backpacks slung on your shoulder while holding both kids' hands. Just clip the top of the second backpack to the bottom of the first, and let it dangle down your back.

You'll look silly (I assume; it's not like I can see what I look like), but it works.

If you have a car? Or a stroller? Or, you know, twins who don't whine? You don't need this hack. Can I have your carabiner?

Friday, February 4, 2011

friday afternoons, our place

PERSEPHONE: can you give the boys baths?
LANCE: i'm not sure i have the energy for that. maybe we can switch, and i'll finish up the cooking.
PERSEPHONE: don't know how to make the broccoli kugel.
LANCE: well, is it rocket science???
PERSEPHONE: [nodding vigorously] yes! yes it is.
LANCE: ohhhkay, i see how this is going to be.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

what became much harder was so easy then

Among other unexpected things that happened this trip, I outed the blog to my other two sisters. Welcome, Sisters One and Two!

Now we're only hiding from my mother.